In 2013, English PEN launched a campaign for greater freedom of expression in Turkey. The campaign aims to raise awareness of current threats to writers, publishers, translators and journalists; to promote literature from Turkey in translation; and to engage in public discussion and debate with writers, artists and intellectuals from Turkey.
The campaign is led by our Writers at Risk Programme, which works on behalf of writers and other literary professionals at risk around the world. In addition to our work on behalf of cases of concern, we are featuring regular dispatches from writers in Turkey on PEN Atlas and hosting a series of events.
To find out more and take action for our colleagues in Turkey, please see the links to the right.
Both English PEN and our colleagues at PEN International have a long history of engagement with free expression issues in Turkey, and many of the key cases we have worked on since PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee was established in 1960 have been from Turkey, including Ali Taygun, Hrant Dink, Asiye Guzel Zeybek, and Orhan Pamuk.
According to PEN International’s most recent case list (July – December 2012) there are currently more cases of concern to PEN in Turkey than in any other country in the world. Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that Turkey is the ‘world’s worst jailer’ of journalists, and Turkey was ranked 154 out of 179 countries in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, having dropped six places since the previous year.
A PEN delegation including our director Jo Glanville visited Turkey in November 2012 and had a number of high level meetings, including with Turkish President Abdullah Gül. In response to the free expression concerns raised by PEN representatives during the meeting, the president claimed:
There are many good things unfolding in Turkey, but these concerns cast a shadow over the progress we are achieving… They also have international repercussions. These developments deeply sadden me, and as president, I more than anyone else want to see that they are resolved and no longer on the country’s agenda.
Nevertheless, less than two months after the delegation left, we learned that our colleagues at PEN Turkey were under investigation as a result of critical comments regarding the ongoing prosecution of celebrated pianist, composer and writer Fazıl Say. The board of PEN Turkey along with poet and critic Nihat Ateş (who uploaded the content to the PEN Turkey website) were called in for questioning in January 2013 by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office.
We continue to urge the Justice Minister to drop the investigation against PEN Turkey at the earliest opportunity, and to call for the release of all those detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression in Turkey.